Kerf, Lantek collaboration delivers ‘industry-leading’ plasma technology

Kerf Developments has been building plasma, oxy-fuel and waterjet cutting machines since 2002.

The company originally started as a service-based organisation repairing and upgrading a broad range of profile cutting machinery. It was the experiences gained working on such a varied range of equipment that formed the basis of the current machine range. Dan Taylor, managing director, explains the transition to machine building: “We have a considerable amount of experience in the industry and we could see which machine configurations gave the best and most reliable performance. The machines that we build here in the workshop in Rochdale have been designed by our team of engineers which, with Kerf being completely independent, means that we can select best in class products for our turnkey solutions from leading global partners such as Lincoln Electric and Burny.”

In addition to offering a standard range of profile cutting machines, Kerf works with its customers to specify a bespoke machine that matches their own individual application. They design and build machines up to 4m wide with a combination of plasma and oxy-fuel heads and of any length. The smallest machine the company have supplied has a working area of 2.5mx 1.25m. The largest has a huge working area of 40m x 4m with multiple bridges.

A choice of plasma systems can be supplied with the machines ranging in cut capability from 1mm right the way through to 90mm. For oxy-fuel applications machines can cut up to 150mm thick as standard or considerably more if the application requires it.

As part of their continued development Kerf needed to evaluate the capabilities of various CAD/CAM and nesting systems as this was becoming an ever-increasing requirement from its customers. Following evaluation of several of the leading systems the one that came out on top for the engineering team at Kerf was the Lantek ‘Expert’ system.

Described as a world leader in software for the sheet metal and fabrication sector, Lantek now has over 24,800 customers in over 100 countries and 20 offices in 14 countries. Its Expert software is supported by a team of engineers in the UK and is developed at the company’s Technological Excellence Centre in Bilbao, Spain. For Kerf Developments, Lantek has trained Kerf’s engineers so that they can provide training and first line support. Dan says, “All our field service engineers have a copy of Lantek Expert software as part of their toolbox so that they can provide an instant response to any queries. Lantek provides regular and valuable updates to the software and are always on hand to provide online support to fine tune systems to work in line with our customers’ needs.”

For offline programming of the cutting machines, CAD data can be imported directly into Lantek Expert, parts nested on the material to optimise usage and the cutting path automatically created, providing a very fast and simple way of keeping the machine running, achieving high productivity levels and short delivery times.

As part of the collaboration, Lantek has worked closely with the engineering team at Kerf to perfect its UltraSharp technology which delivers high quality parts with a square edge, better quality edges and 1:1 hole sizes, for example, a 5mm hole in 5mm material, a capability which would previously have been impossible on a plasma machine. For the user, this capability makes it possible to use much lower cost plasma technology rather than laser technology to manufacture parts and is especially effective for thicker components. Dan adds, “The UltraSharp technology involves internally enhanced software protocols, accelerating and decelerating the torch dynamics on tight contours and holes, controlling the power, gas pressure and flow, amongst other things, and also automatically selecting special lead in and lead out configurations. The result is a constant and true arc with no lag between the top and bottom of the material being cut. All the parameters required to achieve this are built into our technology tables making it easy to achieve high quality components direct from the CAD data.”

One of Kerf Developments’ customers, Pressed Flights based in Littleborough manufactures screw conveyors. The shape of the screw in its flat state is complex and, in many cases varies along the length of the screw depending on the material being transported.

Previously these parts were subcontracted for laser and waterjet cutting. Now the company has a Kerf RUR2500p machine with UltraSharp cutting technology and Lantek’s software and carries out all the cutting in house achieving ± 0.25mm general tolerance. Mark Cryer, managing director at Pressed Flights says, “It is one of the best investments we have made. We transfer CAD data directly into Lantek, nest the parts for best yield, easily and quickly generating the CNC program. The Kerf UltraSharp plasma is very reliable producing augers which are spot on in size, it is a vital part of our operation. After sales service is excellent from both companies.”

“The 14-year collaboration with Lantek has enabled us to deliver industry leading technology to our customers as part of our turnkey machine packages configured to meet the demands of each client’s business. Our focus is on providing excellent service, as it has been from the start. Lantek has the same mindset making it a valuable partner for the delivery of a full process offering.”